Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Banner Saga’s endless winter makes it the timeliest of January releases

Illustration for article titled iThe Banner Saga/i’s endless winter makes it the timeliest of January releases

Out This Month is a roundup of new games that are coming out this month.

The Banner Saga
Mac, PC—January 14

The Banner Saga could be the end-all game for your friendly Out This Month correspondent and turn-based strategy game enthusiast. I’m picturing XCOM, but with spectacular hand-drawn art, Vikings, hoarfrost, Ragnarok, skeletal ravens wheeling over a grim and frostbitten darkenwood as the hoarfrost covers the land like a burial shroud, braided beards, bearded braids, epic poems, barrels of mead, and hulking killers with names like Varg or Gunnbjorn. Did I mention the hoarfrost? As the game begins, the situation is dire. It’s an endless winter, and the gods are no more—the end of all things. But Ekkill, Krumr, Sigbjorn, Tryggvi, and the rest of the gang will be damned if they are going to sit around and meekly meet their doom like a bunch of spineless Saxon dogs.


PC—January 13

Nidhogg may sound like the name of a proud Viking warrior from The Banner Saga or the giant dragon gnawing at the roots of Yggdrasil the World Tree, but in this case, the name is more Basil Rathbone than Odin’s wrath. Two fencers, with nary a beard between them, forsake axes and war hammers for more precise, less pointy weapons and rakish salutes. Players use their epees to poke one another in the chest in the world’s most civilized act of pseudo-violence.


Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation HD
PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360—January 14

While Ubisoft has certainly made their share of missteps with the Assassin’s Creed series, they’ve also done a whole lot of right. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, not content to merely be a kick-ass pirate adventure, recently introduced an add-on story called “Freedom Cry.” In this expansion, your character’s first mate, the freed slave Adéwalé, kills his way through the slavery-plagued Caribbean of the early 18th century. And now Ubisoft is further rupturing the omnipresent boring white male hero paradigm by bringing the previous installment’s PlayStation Vita side game, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, to consoles and PCs. Not only is the hero of this one a person of color, but she is also, as you may have guessed from my judicious use of pronoun, a woman. Welcome to the world of tomorrow, today, video games.


Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Z
PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360—January 28

This latest in a near-infinite line of Dragon Ball Z video games pits all of the major fighters, in all of their iterations and elaborate hairstyles, against one another in an all-out melee with up to eight players at a time. But it’s basically all of the same fighters we see in every game, so maybe—if only for variety’s sake—it’s past time to recognize the show’s secondary characters, the ones that never made it into one of these games because they lack martial ability and monochromatic follicles. There’s Gregory, King Kai’s bumblebee butler. And let’s not forget Yajirobe, the fat and lazy samurai who never battles anything more terrifying than a cheeseburger. What about the replacement Ginyu Force members whose pathetic fighting poses were an insult to that organization’s long and illustrious history? Apparently I’m all about inclusiveness these days.


Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder
Nintendo 3DS—January 9

After a notoriously sluggish few years, Nintendo has rallied in recent months with the release of the wonderful The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS, along with Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. The publisher has saddled up its prized series and ridden them back into the land of relevance. And now, Nintendo appears to be going for the console wars knockout blow with the unleashing of its ultimate sales juggernaut, Chibi-Robo!. Game over.


Broken Age, Part 1

The first half of the Kickstarter-funded labor of love by Tim Schafer and Double Fine will allegedly be released this month. Assuming that comes to pass, it might officially be time to recognize—in light of this and games like Kentucky Route Zero and Telltale’s The Walking Dead—the adventure game’s return to digital prominence. Look out, Call Of Duty. Screen-clicking is in the ascendant.


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